Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review: Raise the Bar by Jon Taffer

For some reason, back around September, I kept hearing about a show called Bar Rescue. Since I like shows like Restaurant Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares, I figured I should watch it. Wow, great show! As an added plus, my girlfriend likes to watch it with me.

I found out Jon Taffer has a book. It was available through the Kindle Lending Library, so I borrowed it to read. It's a great book.

Taffer has a business philosophy he calls "Reaction Management". He says he owns it so I assume it's trademarked or copyrighted. It's about creating positive reactions in staff and customers. Everything in hospitality is connected to emotional reactions, and if you can create them, you'll be successful.


Although Taffer's name is on the cover of the book, inside it says "with Karen Freeman", so I'm not sure if he actually wrote it or if it was ghost written. The book is entirely in his voice though. It sounds exactly like he does on Bar Rescue, F-bombs and all.

In the book, he tells you everything you need to know to run a successful bar. I'm sure his philosophy can be applied to other business areas, including IT. (I have had so many bad experiences with helpdesks, to the point where I don't bother calling them anymore. I've had techs lie to me, or simply not know what the hell they're doing.)

The book literally tells you everything, from how to hire staff (Taffer says the traditional interview process is bullshit, and I agree- it's bullshit in IT too) to how to name your bar, to exterior and interior design and marketing. He tells you how to price food and drinks. He tells you how to do research on your area for demographic information. It's not all that expensive. I've noticed on the show that he usually knows more about the area than the bar owner. Most just build shrines to themselves rather than take the time to understand what will work in their neighborhood.

In the back are appendices about how to price a menu and cocktails.

If you own a bar or want to own a bar, this is a very comprehensive yet short and easy to read book that should help you tremendously. It's so concise, you should probably take hefty notes either in the book or on another format (paper, Evernote, etc) to capture all the ideas and actionable steps to running a great bar.

As a side note, while I was reading this book, my girlfriend took me out to dinner. We started at T.G.I. Fridays, which Taffer highly recommends and which is usually a good experience. Not that night. We were seated, and 10 minutes later, nobody came by to take our order. Most of the servers there looked unhappy. We decided to leave, since even if we got a drink order taken, we were pretty sure by starting off on that foot, we wouldn't get drink refills and it would take forever to get our check. I don't have tolerance for bad service anymore. I'm a paying customer, and I expect to get good service. We should all expect to get great service when we pay for it.

The manager was too busy to come out and hear our complaint, so we told a server to pass along to him that we were leaving because we couldn't get service. Our original intent was to head to Buffalo Wild Wings, but then I remembered Quaker Stake and Lube (an unappetizing name, but good food and service.)

We made the right decision. The service and food at Quaker were great, and it produced the appropriate "Reaction Management" straight out of Taffer's book. We went home happy that night. I walked out the door high on endorphins and Blue Moon.

You can buy the book from my Amazon Affiliate account:

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